If solely school basketball consisted of an everlasting sequence of offseasons, Penny Hardaway could possibly be the undisputed king of Memphis.

OK, so perhaps “King” is a poor phrase alternative provided that Elvis at all times is current within the Mid-South.

Penny could be some kind of monarch, regardless, if he by no means needed to coach a sport.

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Talking of poor alternative of phrases, Hardaway dropped a barrage of F-bombs following the Tigers’ most up-to-date loss, Thursday night time at dwelling to SMU, indignant at a reporter’s query concerning whether or not he believed he might “get it carried out” as Tigers head coach.

“The one factor I can say to this media – as a result of this media will get form of f—ed up generally with regards to me – we don’t have our full roster. Y’all know we don’t have our full roster. Cease asking me silly f—ing questions on if I really feel like I can do one thing.

“If I had my roster like they did, then I really feel like I might do no matter I wish to do. I’m teaching actually laborious, my boys are enjoying actually laborious. I’m not embarrassed about nothing. We’ve got 4 freshmen beginning. Y’all have to act prefer it. Act like we acquired 17- and 18- and 19-year-olds out right here making an attempt to discover ways to play towards 22-, 23- and 24-year-old guys. Come on, man. Cease disrespecting me, bro. Like, don’t try this. I work too f—ing laborious. I work method too laborious for that. Y’all write all these f—ing articles about me, and all I do is figure.”

The loss dropped Memphis to 9-8 and 3-4 within the AAC, the nation’s 9th-rated league based mostly on RPI. The percentages of him ending Memphis’ seven-year NCAA event drought are rising longer and longer.

In some methods, Memphis’ meager efficiency as a program beneath Hardaway, on this season and the three that preceded it, may be much less disconcerting if he have been teeing it up each morning and enjoying poker along with his buddies every night time. If he actually is placing all of the vitality needed into making the Tigers a profitable school crew — and there’s no cause to not take him at his phrase – then the one cheap conclusion is he’s not excellent at being a high-major Division I head basketball coach.

If doing this job have been solely have been about lining up elite recruiting courses, there may be nobody to compete with him, particularly if conventional program power have been factored into the equation. Three of the 5 highest-ranked gamers within the fashionable historical past of Memphis basketball have been signed by Hardaway since 2019.

On Nationwide Signing Day, Hardaway lands nice gamers and generates nice enthusiasm and sees all of that mirrored in a Memphis media that covers the Tigers just like the New York papers cowl the Yankees. On Choice Sunday, Hardaway watches as 68 different coaches see their groups chosen to compete within the NCAA Match.

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That’s the way it’s been yearly since he arrived, nearly actually to the sound of trumpets, in March 2018. Enthusiasm for Tigers basketball had plummeted, from the extraordinary run beneath John Calipari to the 2008 Remaining 4 and 4 consecutive journeys to the event’s second weekend, to 4 straight appearances beneath successor Josh Pastner, to 4 consecutive empty Marches from 2015-18. Season ticket gross sales plunged to low-major ranges.

The hiring of Hardaway – a metropolis child who turned a Tigers All-American and NBA celebrity – reinvigorated this system’s fan base. Capability crowds turned frequent. There have been myriad articles on native and nationwide internet sites about how unbelievable it was for Memphis to have Hardaway as its coach.

What does Memphis have to indicate for it? Extra curse phrases and NCAA investigations – the Tigers’ recruitment of Golden State Warriors heart James Wiseman led to a case that’s in entrance of the Unbiased Accountability Decision Course of (IARP) – than NCAA Match appearances. The Tigers’ lone postseason success was the championship of the 2021 NIT.

With lots of the gamers from that squad returning, and with top-five prospects Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates enrolling, the Tigers have been broadly projected as a top-20 crew this season. They’ve been nowhere close to it, as a result of that concerned video games being performed.

Hardaway’s lament about not having a full roster in Thursday’s loss is honest; the Tigers have been lacking reliable ahead DeAndre Williams and prime shooter Landers Nolley. However it’s additionally deceptive. Nolley appeared within the season’s first 15 video games, throughout which the Tigers have been 9-6 with losses to groups that now personal a mixed file of 62-40. Memphis was 8-4 in Williams’ dozen video games, and that included losses to Georgia and Ole Miss, who personal a composite file of 14-21.

It’s price mentioning, as properly, that when these gamers have been wholesome and energetic, Hardaway known as out his group of veterans in a startling article with Seth Davis of The Athletic. Hardaway excoriated them for not being extra welcoming to this system’s two new elite freshmen.

It was beautiful to see Hardaway activate the individuals who largely prominently celebrated his choice as Tigers coach

The issue with the hiring at all times was this: Hardaway’s solely preparation for the place was as a profitable highschool coach at Memphis East and because the operator of an eponymous membership – Workforce Penny – in Nike’s Elite Youth Basketball League. He wasn’t even that squad’s main sport coach; in each Workforce Penny sport I noticed in a number of years of Nike Peach Jam tournaments, it was former Arkansas star Todd Day who was on the head of the Workforce Penny bench.

Who’s the final success story who got here straight from highschool to a Division I head teaching place? John Wood? In 1946?

I lined Tigers basketball within the Nineties when one other of the crew’s biggest gamers, Larry Finch, struggled to satisfy the usual anticipated of him – and that was with years of preparation as an assistant at UAB and with the Tigers, after teaching the Tigers to an Elite Eight look in 1992 and a Candy 16 in 1995.

By the tip of the 1997 season, as a result of recruiting had collapsed and the fan base had soured, Finch was compelled to resign. I nervous when Hardaway was employed that one other of this system’s icons would encounter the identical consequence: disappointing the very individuals he as soon as thrilled frequently.

There’s an previous teaching axiom: Failing to organize is making ready to fail.

And that seems to be what occurred right here.


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